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Religious Freedom in Taiwan and China

Religious Freedom in Taiwan and China

A panel discussion with Professor Steve Tsang, Dr. Fang-Long Shih and Emeritus Professor Richard Madsen
From our series: Freedom of Expression, Knowledge and State Authority in Asia

Despite freedom of religion being provided for in both the constitutions of Taiwan and China, the reality of practicing religion in each country couldn’t be more different. State control of religion in China ensures a watchful eye is maintained over religious organisations and has been reinforced by recently updated Religious Affairs Regulations, which have led to a notable curtailment of religious freedom and a rise in state sponsored discrimination against and repression of religious groups.

The ROC, on the other hand, has received plaudits from human rights organisations and NGO’s for is protection of religious freedom. Hosting the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Summit in Taipei City, in September of this year, marked the country as a strong defender of religious freedom in Asia. The implications of these two approaches impact social cohesion, stability and diversity in both societies and cause tensions in Chinese diplomatic relations with democracies around the world.

Professor Tsang is the Director of the SOAS China Institute. Before taking on his current position in 2016, he was Head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, and before that a Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford. He is also an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College.

He is a frequent commentator for multiple news channels including the BBC, Sky News, Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera and has testified at various select committees of the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Canadian House of Commons.

Dr Fang-Long Shih is a specialist in the anthropology of Chinese religious, civic and political culture in Taiwan. Her writings, based on extensive fieldwork conducted in Taiwan since the 1990s, have been about the development of civil society in relation to colonialism, modernisation, nationalism, democratisation, and globalisation, often using examples from religion or culture as a case study.

Since 2009, she has served as Co-Director of the LSE Taiwan Research Programme. The Programme aims to promote grounded, critical, and contextualised research and analysis of economic, political, societal, and environmental change from cultural perspectives, while being attentive to Taiwan in its contemporary geopolitical and global contexts.

Richard Madsen, described as “one of the modern-day founders of the study of Chinese religion”, is Emeritus Professor of sociology at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego. He is Director of the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China and is the author of twelve books on Chinese culture, US-China relations and international relations.

His most recent book is “Democracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan.”

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